One week after replacing its top brass, the embattled US Air Force Academy is bracing for institutional changes, promising to confront the embarrassing rape scandal that has plagued the academy the last several months. Last Thursday, Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, who replaced Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert II as commandant, pledged to a crowd of 4,000, “We’re going to attack [sexual assault] three ways: culture, communication and commitment,” reported the Denver Post. The same day, Col. Debra Gray replaced Col. Bob Eskridge as vice commandant of cadets.
The Agenda for Change as the proposals are termed, calls for dramatic shifts in student body structure, including greater adult oversight and a weakened student command chain, as well as implementation of 24-hour dorm security and monitoring. In addition, the agenda mandates reporting of rape by anyone with knowledge of the incident, including fellow cadets, academy counselors, and medical staff–regardless of the victim’s request for confidentiality. Victim advocates warn that this violation of confidentiality is not only insensitive to a victim’s space and sense of safety, but the “inappropriate sharing” of information heightens distrust of academy officials, who victims fear may use post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from rape against them for career advancement. “Victims have to have a right to talk to somebody and have that held in confidence,” said Jennifer Bier, director of Tessa, a Colorado Springs domestic violence agency, according to Salon.
The military’s consideration of special policies for women, including segregated dorms during basic training and clustered rooms, has sparked similar controversy. Professor Hillman told Salon, “[granting women special protection] sends the wrong message to the women there… It’s as if we’re saying, ‘You need to be protected.’ These are women who are going to be officers in the Air Force. They are going to do the protecting. When you’re perceived as a victim, it makes it difficult to assert power and authority.”